Friday, February 5, 2010

On Intentional Misunderstanding

One of the rare benefits of being new to a language is that you can get a way with a lot of intentional misunderstandings. It is easy to brush aside comments that you would rather not respond to with an, ‘I am new to this language, I don’t understand.’ In a lot of ways it is an empowering technique. For instance, when the Town Crazy or the Town Glue Snifter tries to engage you in conversation in the cafĂ©, it is a simple matter to act as if you don’t understand their demands for money or to know your American name. In general, whenever anyone tries to pressure you to do something that you would rather not do (such as giving them money or personal information) it is so much easier to fall back on the, ‘mafimtsh (I don’t understand)’ card. That way you don’t have to be rude and contentious by saying ‘no’. People generally lose interest in you faster if they think that they will have to work really hard to try to communicate. Of course, on the other hand, being new to a language, sometimes you don’t have to fake misunderstanding, because you generally are clueless. Just goes to prove ignorance is bliss…

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